Monthly Archives: November 2012

Meet Kenna: Finding Balance – school, work, play, and Lifeworks

Lifeworks volunteer Kenna Wieczorek

by: Kath Pengelly, volunteer & advocate coordinator

Kenna Wieczorek is attending Minnesota State University in Mankato with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. This fall she needed twenty service learning hours for Human Relations in a Multi-Cultural Society class. She contacted Lifeworks wondering if we could help her complete the required hours.

Some days she played games, helped with art projects, and set up lunches, and some days she was a listening friend to someone who just wanted to talk. She fulfilled the twenty hour requirement weeks ago but continues to come. I wondered what motivates a busy person like Kenna who is trying to balance school, work, National Honor Society, and family to continue to volunteer.

 Kenna explained to me that Lifeworks has provided her with an eye-opening experience. Prior to her time with us, she has only known one person who has autism. Now she has a completely different outlook regarding the term disability. Kenna had this to say,

“After volunteering with Lifeworks for the past two months my whole perception of people with disabilities has changed. They are so much more than whatever disability they have. They are each so kind and caring and show it in their own way. Interacting with their unique personalities is what I look forward to when I go there. I think what Lifeworks is and what it stands for is a great thing. Giving people the opportunity to feel important by helping them with jobs and giving them the opportunity to socialize and learn throughout the day is so good for them as individuals.”

I asked Kenna if she thinks she will continue to come to Lifeworks after this semester is over even though she is busy. She responded, “Yes, I definitely think so. I keep coming because I enjoy it so much. As long as my crazy schedule allows, I think I will keep volunteering here. I like knowing that I am helping the staff and that I might be brightening some of the clients days when I’m there, it makes me feel good.”

Interns, volunteers, and service learners, both individuals and groups play a vital role in the day-to-day workings of Lifeworks and enhance our ability to assist people with disabilities in creating the lives they want to live. Each opportunity is unique! Join us like Kenna did for a minimum of 20 hours and maybe you will stay with us too.

Please call Kath Pengelly at 651-365-3720 or email me at kpengelly@lifeworks.org

Kenna volunteering with Lifeworks Mankato clients

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The EMT’s Are Here – And No One Dialed 911

Submitted by Kath Pengelly, volunteer and advocate coordinator at Lifeworks

There have been a lot of folks in uniforms at the Eagan center these past two months. During September and October, we have had the pleasure of hosting a total of twenty seven EMT students from Inver Hills Community College.

This wonderful partnership provided an opportunity for the students to meet and interact with a diverse population and it has given our clients and staff a chance to spend time with medical personal in a non emergency setting.

Inver Hills Community College EMT student volunteers in uniform

On our first day in early September, the EMT students were treated to a bagpiper parade and jumped right in to help our clients be part of the parade route. Since then the EMT students have helped with art projects, played board games and joined us at bowling. In addition, they have talked to the clients at Eagan about how and when to dial 911, what blood pressure is and facts about hygiene.

This week I checked in with both our staff and the students to ask for feedback. Here’s what I got. The students have enjoyed their time with us, appreciated the chance to learn more about the personal interests of our folks and affirm that we are all unique individuals. Our staff said that the first day that the students came some clients were very anxious and concerned that there was an emergency in the building and now at week eight the response was, ”Oh good, they’re here again. What are we going to do today?”

So our goal of creating a level of comfort between the consumer and the first responder has been met, but more importantly we have had fun together, laughed together and learned from each other. Maybe if there is an emergency in the future and one of these students is the responder the potential anxiety of our clients will be lessened and the knowledge base of the EMT will be expanded.

Thank you to these future Paramedics, their quick thinking, courage and training will take them to many places, we appreciate their willingness to spend time with us.

We also appreciate Tia Radant, Director of Emergency Services Programs, Tina Mininni, Adjunct Faculty and Katie Halcrow, Director of Service Learning for thinking outside the box and making this experience available to us.

The whole group of EMT student volunteers

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